The degeneration of political discourse

ByAlam Brohi

A former Ambassador of Pakistan and was associated with Foreign Service of Pakistan


June 19, 2022

The degeneration of political discourse

Ambassador Alam Brohi talks about a sensitive issue

In early 2019, The degeneration of political discourse Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, answered Hamid Mir’s question about why he did not join the Federal Government when he had concluded an agreement with the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf for support to Prime Minister Imran Khan. He stated that the people of Balochistan had not mandated him to grab the opportunity of acquiring power. Rather, they have voted for him to address their problems. His agreement with the ruling party comprises nine points covering the burning issues of the province, and that it was more important to address them than having the perks of power. His statement inspired appreciation from the people of Balochistan and Sindh. This kind of faith in the public mandate could only be displayed by leaders of political and ethical convictions. Akhtar Jan inherited these convictions from his illustrious father, Sardar Attaullah Mengal.

His statement reminded me of a meeting of General Ziaul Haq with the senior Mengal. The General, during his maiden visit to Balochistan as Chief Martial Law Administrator, called on the ailing Sardar Attaullah Mengal and specially asked him to register an FIR for the murder of his son Asadullah against Bhutto. He assured the Sardar that he would ensure a severe punishment to Bhutto. By then, Bhutto had already been arrested and lodged in prison on murder charges. The Sardar’s answer to the General reflected the tribal traditions of dignity, honour, and large-heartedness. He replied: “Look, General, I have lost hundreds of my sons in the security operation in our land. Bhutto is already in distress and a prisoner. I do not want to go down in the history as a small, spiteful and vindictive man by adding to the sufferings of the fallen man.” We recall Asadullah Mengal was picked up by the infamous Federal Security Force in the mid-1970s. This explained the rationale behind the junior Mengal’s decline to join the government.

This takes me on a nostalgic journey down memory lane to the politics of the 1950s and 1960s, which were based on nationalism; leftist and rightist ideologies; the labour and peasant problems; the aspirations of the teeming millions; the resistance to the transgression of the ruling autocracy. The leftists were conspicuous by their heroic struggle against the political and economic inequities perpetrated on Bengalis, and the people of small provinces within the One-Unit, and the exploitation of labour and peasantry by the ruthless industrialists and landlords.

The labour and student unions were active and formed the backbone of political movements. The student and labour leaders carried tremendous importance for the mainstream political parties and were a guarantee for the success of agitational or confrontational politics. Indeed, they brought to knees General Muhammad Ayub Khan and played the most prominent role in uplifting the political fortunes of ZA Bhutto by joining his Pakistan People’s Party in droves.

The politics of nationalism and secular ideals reigned supreme in the country in the successive two decades from 1950 to 1970 and was spearheaded by leaders of the standing of Hussein Suhrawardy, Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, Mir Ghaus Buksh Bizenjo, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Khair Buksh Mari, Hyder Buksh Jatoi, Qazi Faiz Muhammad, G.M. Syed, Rasool Buksh Palijo, Shaikh Ayaz, Jam Saqi, Fatehyab Ali Khan – just to name a few – from the constellation of political stars of the time.

Later, ZA Bhutto and his followers and admirers – G.A. Rahim, Muhammad Rashid Shaikh, Dr. Mubashar Hassan, Mukhtar Raana, Mairaj Muhammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Katpar and Tariq Aziz joined this crop of the left-wingers. The student leaders who readily come to my mind were Liaquat Baloch, Javed Hashmi, Matti-ur-Rehman Nizami, Shaikh Rashid, Abdul Hayee Baloch, Nawab Yousaf Talpur, Ali Gul Metlo, Iqbal Tareen, Dr Qadir Magsi, Bashir Ahmed Qureshi, Shafi Burfat, Dr. Shafqat Abbassi, Amanullah Shaikh etc. They were famously known for their courage and resilience. They suffered imprisonment but never wavered from their avowed political and nationalist ideologies.

Standing in direct ideological confrontation with the nationalists and left-wingers were venerable Syed Abul Al’a Maudoodi, Mufti Mahmood, Maulvi Farid Ahmed, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan and Muslim Leaguers of the fame of Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, Mumtaz Daultana, Khan Abdul Qayum Khan, Chaudhry Zahoor Ellahi, Pir Pagara etc. Both the right and left-wingers represented the socio-cultural ethos and ethical values of honesty, mutual tolerance and respect in politics. The affliction of corruption and corrupt practices as painfully known to us today was rarely found in the erstwhile political lot. Even, the first PPP administration did not attract allegations of financial corruption. ZA Bhutto was accused of every other felony except financial corruption.
Some of these leaders were known for their modest means and frugal living. Barring a few, the erstwhile student leaders finished their education and pursued respectable professions or migrated to greener pastures to make a career there. Some of them started practising in courts of law to eke out a modest living. Quite a few made names in the national and provincial politics of Sindh and Punjab.

The election campaign of 1970 witnessed tough competition between the left-wingers and rightist parties and even between certain religious political parties. Over 100 religious leaders issued an edict that Mr. Bhutto preaching godless socialism had fallen out of the pale of Islam. Bhutto had to add the prefix of ‘Islami’ to socialism.

Bhutto was subjected to intense criticism by the religious and rightist parties. He retaliated by calling some of his opponents including Khan Abdul Qayum Khan, Asghar Khan, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, Ayub Khuhro and Qazi Fazlullah derogatory names. The political polarisation of 1970 continued unabated due mainly to the strong-arm politics of the late Bhutto arresting and jailing some of his opponents on frivolous grounds. This competition between Bhutto and his rightist opponents further intensified in the election campaign of 1977 becoming more foul and disparaging than in 1970. This time, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was more offensive than Bhutto. TW


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